Magical Negro – Morgan Parker

Using an American cinema trope as a frame to discuss placement of where she sees herself or doesn’t see herself in the context of culture Morgan Parker’s Magical Negro is spectacular in its usage of colloquial language. The book uses tools of ethnography and anthropology to discover and discuss the placement of the black female body in America. Unapologetic in its references, it is a book joining the conversation of astute modern intellects.

Inferno – Eileen Myles

Inferno by Eileen Myles is a true gift, a writer’s book. A writer’s journey weaving their way through their queer life in New York City. The author explicitly speaks to the obsessions and sadness the drives us to daringly call ourselves writers. A book that every young writer should read and digest.

The Tradition – Jericho Brown

The poems in Jericho Brown’s The Tradition comment on cultural crisis and speaks from the black body. His lyric moves through the collection asking readers to explore complacency in how we have grown accustomed to terror and how love and beauty heals us. Employing new forms such as the duplex, Jericho’s voice is urgent and necessary.

Incendiary Art – Patricia Smith

Patricia Smith’s Incendiary Art is an exploration and interrogation of grief. Using classical forms, the poems comment on violence against the black body; poems as elegies. The speaker is a witness to mothers’ pain, history unfolding and repeating, a warning call that we must listen to.

Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison’s writing moves me in ways that have changed me as writer. She taught me to look at my own complacency when it came to whiteness and the role it plays in all areas of life. The way she wrote about black people, black families, the black experience. She also taught me about how to write of a place. Now that she’s gone, no one can write a good sentence.

Dare Williams is a 2019 PEN America Emerging Voices Fellow. He is an HIV-positive poet, artist, activist native to Southern California. Dare’s poetry has been featured in Cultural Weekly and elsewhere. An alum of John Ashbury Home School Claremont, he is currently working on a poetry collection confronting the erasure of queer culture.

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